The LA Clippers dominated Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, 109-97, even without Kawhi Leonard.


It came as no surprise when Kawhi Leonard was ruled out for Game 1 on Sunday morning. Everything this past week had been trending towards that outcome.

What was maybe a little bit surprising was how dominant the Clippers looked to start the game. While the Mavericks eventually found a rhythm in the second half, the damage had already been done.

An aggressive James Harden set the tone early, not just with his playmaking, but as a scoring threat, attacking off the dribble and hitting his patented step back threes.

The Clippers ended the first quarter with a 34-22 lead, then opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run to go up 40-22. They led 56-30 by halftime, and then started the second half with a Harden three-pointer.

Following the game, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue remarked how part of the gameplan coming into Sunday was to get Harden playing as aggressive as he did.

“James is James, we need him to be aggressive no matter if Kawhi is playing or who is on the floor. . .Just attacking the basket, making the right play but also getting to screens, getting to his one-on-one ISOs,” Lue said. “During the regular season we talked about that. . .he’s a huge part of our success.”

Harden finished with 28 points, two rebounds and eight assists in 39 minutes of play. He shot 6-11 from three-point range and was a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line.

Harden got help from Paul George, who didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but was a major force nonetheless. He scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter including two on a nice backdoor cut and a pass from Mason Plumlee.

Following the game, George acknowledged that there are still some things they can clean up in anticipation of the Mavericks playing better in Game 2.

“Kyrie is a Hall of Fame scorer, Luka will be a Hall of Famer. . .I didn’t shoot well today, so I got to be better and we just got to continue to generate great shots,” George said. “There’s always room for improvement, I think we can get better. But we can’t get complacent with how we played today, knowing what they have in their locker room.”

While the big question between now and Tuesday’s Game 2 is will Leonard be available, George believes the team still has the personnel and the confidence to continue to hold it down until he is ready to play.

“We still have more than enough. Obviously Kawhi puts us over the top. . .we’ve been together for a while and been through these journeys for a while now,” George said. “We have more than enough to hold it down till Kawhi comes back.”

David Yapkowitz

David Yapkowitz

David is in his sixth season as credentialed media at Los Angeles Clippers games and second season covering the team for 213 Hoops. He also covers the game at the college and high school levels. When his professional basketball dreams did not materialize, he turned to the next best thing, writing about it.

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